The Nature of Health and Disease

One of the primary focuses within Ayurvedic Medicine is living in harmony with nature.  For mainstream society “living in harmony with nature” may imply a focus on green living with recycling, eating organic food, living more simply, and so on.  These can all be included within a modern conception of this message yet there is an aspect that is still missing from this equation.

Many, if not all, ancient intuitive or holistic healing systems, whether with a foundation in medicine, in meditation, or in another holistic practice, stressed the importance of unity with nature.  Man was considered to be part of nature rather than separate or master over nature.  If man took on any role with respect to nature, it was that of a guardian, caring for nature and all that it encompassed to whatever extent he could.

These concepts have been upheld by holistic traditions and thought throughout time:

“What is in a man, asks Sushrut, that falls sick?  What is that that we treat medicinally?  The body or the mind?  Sushruta says that, “anything that afflicts the inner man (self or Purusha) is disease and that disease has a primary seat in the inner spring of vitality from which flows out to the surface, the external body.”  In man, as in everything else in the universe, the direction of the inherent force is from the centre to the circumference.  The shock is felt first at the centre of vitality, whence it is transmitted outwards and thus affects the energy which holds the molecules together, Dvyanuks and Tryanuks…” –The Sushruta Samhita, based on original Sanskrit Text, Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna, circa 800 B.C.

“Whoever would study medicine aright must learn of the following subjects.  First he must consider the effect of the seasons of the year and the differences between them.  Secondly, he must study the warm and the cold winds, both those which are common to every country and those peculiar to a particular locality… “ Hippocrates, circa 400 B.C.

“The Yellow Emperor once addressed T’ien Shih, the divinely inspired teacher: ‘I have heard that in ancient times the people lived (through the years) to be over a hundred years, and yet they remained active and did not become decrepit in their activities.  But nowadays people reach only half of that age and yet become decrepit and failing.  Is it because the world changes from generation to generation?  Or is it that mankind is becoming negligent (of the laws of nature)?’” –The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine translation by Ilza Veith, circa 100 B.C.

“Vitality and beauty are gifts of Nature for those who live according to its laws.” Leonardo Da Vinci, circa 1500 A.D.

“In this time of endless gadgets, please whisper in our ear that we descend from the clan of human decency.  This world of water, trees, rocks, sky, and earth is our heritage.  This natural wonderment is our original playground.” Aspiration of Shambhala: Fulfilling the Wishes of the Dorje Dradul, present day

Ancient traditions prescribed a lifestyle that was not only specific to the individual’s constitution but also in accordance with nature.  This included rising and retiring with the rising and setting of the sun and eating and engaging in activity according to the seasons, amongst other practices.  For instance, all foods have many qualities attributed to them just like the elements of the Earth (space, air, fire, water, and earth, according to Ayurved).  Just like fire is hot, so may a food have a predominantly hot quality, making it more suitable for the winter time or for a person lacking heat in his or her body (such as in poor circulation).  Practices which are “unnatural” over time result in illness and disease.

Each individual is an expression of an aspect of nature.  Imagine a rug being woven.  To make a design at some point some red will be used, some blue, some brown.  Each stitch will be different and may include other colors underneath.  Each stitch is composed of the same underlying material but is different from the other.  Likewise, if you walk through a forest you may notice many of the same kind of tree but each is different in its own way.  Just as structures in nature may parallel each other (nanoscientists found the structure of the “early universe” in grains of sand, 2007), structures in the human body may also parallel structures found in nature.

This practice of applying concepts found through observation of nature to the human body correlates with the modern-day design method of biosynergetics (a subdivision of synergetics) or applying patterns found in nature to the human body or other areas in order to promote health and sustainability.  Biosynergetics is a recently coined term for one aspect of a practice again taking hold in society today but one that has intuitively been practiced throughout the span of known human history.

No matter how “modern” we deem ourselves to be the truth is that we still live on this Earth and are still subject to its laws, fluxes, and processes.  Disease stems from ignorance or ignoring this and failing to adopt a lifestyle specific to the ebbs and flows of the local environment.  Our health and well-being are interconnected with the world around us.

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